Now, this gives a new meaning to “living art”! Let’s try to get one of these pieces into the Museum Of The Weird, it would be right at home “living” among our other oddities! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
When artist Oron Catts has to murder a living sculpture he has painstakingly raised by hand, he doesn’t really mind: He can always grow a fresh one. Catts, cofounder of the SymbioticA Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia, is known for culturing living cells into a variety of shapes (like Extra Ear, above). But since the cells, which feed on a slurry of nutrients and fetal-cow serum, are not part of a body with an immune system, they’re vulnerable to disease and infection; they must be kept in sterile glass or plastic chambers to maintain proper pH and temperature. When an exhibition ends, Catts sometimes opens the habitat and lets onlookers dispatch the sculpture with the poison of their bacteria-laden touch. Fifteen years ago, Catts was lucky to find a biologist willing to teach him the techniques needed to make his works. These days, SymbioticA offers residencies and workshops to artists who focus on the living world the way others blow glass or make prints. One of Catts’ pieces is slated for resurrection in China this summer. Life goes on and on.